clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Season by Season History of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1983

Goodbye, winning seasons, smart drafting, and Doug Williams. Hello, frustration, disappointment, and mind-boggling front office decisions.

Bucs fans had nothing to cheer about in 1983, either.
Bucs fans had nothing to cheer about in 1983, either.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Before the start of training camp and the official kickoff of the 2014 Buccaneers season, Bucs Nation will take you through every season in Buccaneers history, one by one, to paint the whole picture of how the Buccaneers got to where they are today.

We continue with the 1983 season, when "business as usual" resumed in Tampa.

Season Recap

Record: 2-14 (Last in NFC)

Points scored: 241 (27th in NFL)

Points against: 380 (22nd in NFL)

Missing Doug Williams: Doug Williams was replaced at quarterback by Jack Thompson, who would throw for a better completion percentage than Williams ever registered, but Thompson added nothing as a runner, and the Buccaneer offense became stale without Williams' big play ability.

Lee Roy Selmon Can't Do it All: The Bucs' first Hall of Famer would earn 11 sacks in a return to form after the strike shortened season a year before, but his contributions weren't enough to get the Tampa Bay defense back into the top-10, or anywhere close.

Are There Any Other Receivers?: James Wilder played only 10 games in 1983, but would finish 25th in the NFL in receptions, on pace to finish among the league leaders had he played the full season.

Key Games

A Sign of Things to Come: The Bucs lost 11-0 in Week 1 to the Detroit Lions, who opened the scoring with a safety in the first quarter. The Bucs couldn't protect their quarterback all day, allowing seven sacks, 5.5 of which were credited to William Gay.

Adding Insult to Injury: The Bears had the Bucs' first round pick thanks to the Booker Reese trade, but that didn't lead to any sympathy for the Bucs, who were smashed 27-0 by Chicago in Week 12. Walter Payton scored twice and the Bucs could only manage 132 total yards on offense. The Bucs were without several key players, but they still failed to compete in what would be their 11th loss of the season.

Major Storylines

The Buccaneers entered the 1983 Draft coming off of a mediocre season in which they earned a playoff berth and quickly flamed out. That means they just retooled and got right back into the thick of things, right?

Unfortunately not, as the talent-laden first round of the '83 selection meeting passed the Bucs by thanks to their draft day blunder a year before, trading away a first round pick to trade up to take Booker Reese. So instead of having a chance at Dan Marino, Darrell Green, or a trade up to land any of the other Hall of Famers in that class, the Bucs instead had a bust who would be gone in a year and out of the NFL soon after that.

Combine that with the Buccaneers' decision to not pay Doug Williams, and trade their 1984 first-round pick for his replacement, Jack Thompson, and the Buccaneers couldn't have made a bigger mess of the 1983 offseason. The team's refusal to open up the checkbook for Williams set into motion a series of awful personnel decisions which led to the awful results of the 80's and 90's that have defined the Buccaneer franchise ever since.

Lee Roy Selmon was re-signed, but he wasn't good enough on his own to carry the team back into contention in the NFC Central. The Bears were building the foundation for their famous defense, while the Bucs were unable to add any pieces around Selmon to create a dynastic defense of their own.

The 1983 season itself was a disaster for the Bucs, who couldn't protect their quarterback or block for the running game, and struggled to stop teams on defense despite the presence of long-time stars like Selmon, Cedric Brown, Mike Washington and others.

The only respectable game the Bucs played that season was a victory over the would-be 8-8 Vikings, as James Wilder would rack up 219 rushing yards (including a 75-yard touchdown) to carry the Bucs' awful offense. Wilder would gain only 640 yards in his 10 games that season, so the Vikings game was an exception rather than the rule for the Buccaneer offense.

So the 2-14 Bucs would enter the offseason without a first round pick, and with not much hope of returning to the winning ways of the past few seasons.